Sunday, April 27, 2008

Doctor Who S04E04-The Sontaran Stratagem

When 52 people all die simultaneously around the world because of their specialized vehicles, UNIT medical officer Martha Jones recalls The Doctor to Earth to assist in the investigation. As The Doctor is reunited with his old friend and former allies (and gets to meet Donna's eccentric family once again), a familiar enemy stirs in the shadows. One of Earth's youngest geniuses has allied himself with a squadron of fierce Sontaran soldiers and their plot to bring Earth to its knees nears fruition. With millions of lives at stake, the stage is set for the ultimate showdown between UNIT and the Sontarans...and even The Doctor might not be able to stop the oncoming slaughter.

UNIT, The Sontarans, Martha Jones. Whew, it's like a Doctor Who nostalgia fest in this episode. Granted, I never really watched the original serials that much so it was a learning experience for me watching the Sontarans and UNIT at work. Needless to say, this is the big event that we've been wating for since Series 4 began, and it succeeded on so many levels story wise, with maybe one or two little cracks in the armor.

First, the cracks. Martha appears to have gone through the ultimate character change since her joining UNIT. It was a little strange though that she was never this commanding or hardcore serious when she was hanging out with Jack and Torchwood. That being said, it was a bit akward watching her and The Doctor reunite after all this time and behaving on a whole new level with each other. It was sad to see the familiar, kind hearted free spirit we were used to in Series 3 almost a "soldier" as Donna puts it, but that's just me.

That aside, everything else played a pretty interesting set up role. The cautious yet cocky guns blazzing attitude of UNIT will definitley play into their eventual showdown with the Sontarans and seeing how they handled small alien situations like Tosh's backstory on Torchwood with such cold hearted procission, it strikes me as odd that The Doctor would ever want to work with such a group back in the day. Then again, UNIT may have been just as different as he was back in the 70's during the Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker eras.

That brings us to the Sontarans. Now I know that I will get alot of nasty looks from hardcore series fans, but I have finally found the Doctor Who equivalent of the Klingons. From their love for battle to their battle chant at the end of the episode, it was very hard not to find similarities between the two different species. This wasn't a bad thing though, I just couldn't help but chuckle at some of their little speeches. I can't wait to see how they act during actual combat next week.

Finally, there is the reintroduction of Donna's family to the story. We've already seen how The Doctor's companions familes have a habit of getting involved with big conflicts in a bad way, a la Rose and Martha's folks. It will be sad to see Donna's granddad bite the bullet, but as serious as this series has been since Episode 2, nothing should be taken for granted with this shows direction.

All in all, my blood was pumping fast as the preview for next week popped up. As Captain Jack said such a long time ago in a similar situation with the Daleks, "This is it ladies and gentlemen, we are at war!!!"

Next Week: The Sontarans vs. UNIT...bring the noise.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Doctor Who S04E03-Planet of the Ood

Setting the Tardis coordinates to random, The Doctor and Donna land on a far off ice planet. Here, The Doctor once again encounters the mysterious slave race known as the Ood and learns of their creation and distribution across the galaxy. But a deadly wave of deja vu is about to hit as the eyes of the Ood begin to glow dangerously red and a mysterious voice not their own begins to speak, leading them to rebel against their human masters. As The Doctor and Donna hurry to escape and discover the mystery behind "The Circle" they must also face the horrifying truth of the human race of the far off future.

Well, here we are at episode three and I must say, this is the most topical Doctor Who episode I have ever seen. The whole subject of using the Ood as inbred slaves was touched on slightly during their initial introduction in Series 2's "The Impossible Planet" and "The Satan Pit", but here it is the full blown heart of the story. Again, Donna becomes the viewer who spews out exactly what we are all thinking. It is horrific to think of just how cruel us humans can turn out to be if we fail to remember our own history. That being said, their cruel masters, even the real pretty one, get what they rightfully deserve in the end and the Ood get their freedom.

However, with all this hype of bringing the Ood back as villains, the hype actually fails here as the audience no longer finds them as scary as they were when possessed by the Devil, if scary at all. Hence, this episode does lose a bit of its strength based on failed advertising. When the Sontarans and the Daleks show up again later on, you know it's time to get scared. But not here, all in all disappointing.

But was this episode bad because of such story qualities? No, but it wasn't the best either. It was fun watching The Doctor getting chased by the crazy security guard with the CGI crane, always some of the best stunts when you work on something like this. And we finally got to see the Ood origins, which are sad enough, but still interesting in their own way. And wow, seeing the head honcho transform into an Ood at the very end was, well...whoa. Nuff said.

Next Week: Martha's Back!!! But so are the Sontarans and their bringing the noise for the first of a two part epic struggle. Doctor Who fans, this is one alien encounter that is sure to please all.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Doctor Who S04E02-The Fires of Pompeii

The Doctor and Donna land in Pompeii for a look at Roman history. Turns out though, they're arrived the day before the disasterous erruption of Mt. Vesuvius, or as The Doctor calls it "Volcano Day". Tracked by a mysterious off world occult and menacing, lava blooded foot soldiers, The Doctor and Donna have face a far greater and deeper dilema. Will The Doctor follow his instincts and let history take its inevitable course? Or will he listen to Donna and try to change the fate of 20,000 innocent people?

Before going into things, right off the bat, the production and set design crews must be given a huge round of applause. This isn't some skimmpy, quickly thrown together set of quarries, but a fully fleshed out visualization of Pompeii we are looking at on screen. And some of the architecture we are seeing on screen is on par with that of the sets in Gladiator. Just goes to show us once again that Russell T. Davies and crew are doing their absolute best to keep us interested in the worlds we visit. And that effort shows more than ever this time around.

While this episode did seem to lose some steam in parts, the real meat of this story is not in the wacky action, but The Doctor and Donna's growing relationship. Donna seems to be reminding me more and more of Rose with every second of this episode. While yes, she is still loud and a bit annoying, she is pure of heart and actually challenges The Doctor on what to do about the erruption of Pompeii, something it's citizens are oblivious to. This episode showed Donna at her most serious and you can definitley sympathize with her feelings. Still, The Doctor does have to think about reprocutions of changing the timeline and the bigger picture of what could happen. After all, if he could go back and save his fellow Time Lords from burning to death, he would. This episode just highlighted just how terrible the curse of the Time Lords can be.

The Doctor and Donna, although I would never have found myself saying this back in July when I heard they were hooking up again, make a pretty fantastic team. Donna has kept true to her promise to keep The Doctor's tendency to overdo things in check and The Doctor is learning to listen to those around him. It's a perfect match, rivaling that of The Doctor and Rose, and it will be amazing to see how the writers continue to develop their unique relationship.

And, it has to be said, The Doctor fighting lava soldiers and rock solid seers with a water pistol was one of the most hilarious moments of Doctor Who EVER!!!! Silly, yes, but nonetheless a great spectacle to keep instilled in our heads that this show is simply fun and never 100% serious, a la Torchwood.

Next Week: The Ood are back. Are they possessed? Why are they being targeted by men with really big guns? And will there be another marker indicating the inevitable return of an old friend? So exciting, isn't it?


Saturday, April 5, 2008

Doctor Who S04E01-Partners in Crime

The head of Adipose Industries, Miss Foster, has created a revolutionary new diet pill that's taking all of London by storm. But there are few who believe that there is something very wrong with this pill that eliminates all fat in three weeks. Among those few are an eccentric investigator named Donna Noble, and a certain time traveling hero. When The Doctor and Donna cross paths again for the first time in a long time, they will have to deal with the nanny from hell if any Londoner is to survive what's coming. And if that weren't enough, who is that mysterious, yet familiar blonde girl watching the events alone from a distance?

Low and behold, we have finally arrived at Series 4 and based on several previews it may very well be the most exciting season yet. And while this episode was plenty of fun to watch, you can't help but get the feeling that the real magic that this season promises is still a little ways off.

Now, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Donna when she first popped up in the 2006 Christmas Special “The Runaway Bride”. I don’t know why? But I just never saw this annoying, obnoxious, and fiery red head as Doctor Companion material. And Martha proved she could very well handle herself after Rose left at the end of Series 2, I was a little weary at standing by the decision to bring Donna back. She does, however, provide plenty of humor between her and The Doctor at several points in the episode, which makes sense considering how lighthearted the episode was overall. So there may be hope for her yet.

And wow, when Russell T. Davies promises the freakiest Doctor Who moment ever, he delivers. That poor woman dissolving into tiny, cute baby fat children was a huge and somewhat funny shocker. That aside, the story did seem a bit weird for a Doctor Who story, I mean a rouge intergalactic nanny wanting to turn human fat into babies and give them to a family was just too farfetched to me.

If this episode did one thing flawlessly besides the cute babies, it was the scenes where The Doctor and Donna catch up on what’s happened since they last met. David Tennant continues to dominate the role of The Doctor, showing the audience just how much he wants to have a friend to travel with, yet the damage he does to their lives, a la losing Rose and nearly getting Martha’s family killed, makes this a sticky situation. Yet Donna still wants to travel with him. So, again, maybe there is hope that this new partnership will work.

And, how can you not talk about this episode without mentioning Rose’s surprising appearance at the end? She appears and vanishes without a trace leaving many questions in the air as to what we saw. Is it really Rose, trying to get back home to The Doctor? Is it a ghost, or something far more sinister? As was the case with Bad Wolf, Torchwood and Harold Saxon, the return of Rose will likely be the one big event that ties this whole series together.

Next week: The Doctor and Donna arrive in Pompeii. And as The Doctor quotes Captain Jack Harkness, he forgot to set his clock, “It’s Volcano Day”.


Friday, April 4, 2008

Torchwood S02E13-Exit Wounds

Captain John Hart returns to Cardiff, bringing the apocalypse along with him. As Torchwood hurries to save a city in utter turmoil, Jack goes head first into the greatest fight of his life. Why is John destroying Cardiff? Is it all part of something bigger? Will Grey ever be found and will he ever forgive Jack for leaving him behind all of those years ago? And, more importantly, with the world as they know it crumbling around them, will any member of Torchwood still be alive to tell the tale when everything ends?

As Jack says at the beginning of every episode, "The 21st century is when everything changes, and you've gotta be ready." Nothing, and I mean nothing, could prepare anyone for the brilliance and heartache that came along with "Exit Wounds". So yes, I am confirming for everyone now that the rumors are true. Torchwood looses members this time and for sake of trying to be a spoiler free blog, I'll leave them nameless. Still, even with the sadness that this episode brought along with it, it also stood far above and beyond as a season finale, something Season 1 ender "End of Days" never did to the best of its ability.

Well, James Marsters finally returns as John Hart for the big closer and we learn far more about him than ever before. After learning his true motives for the attacks on Jack's life, one wonders what will become of him as the series moves on after this point. It would be nice to see him come back again for some adventure, maybe even join the crew. Then again, that would make Torchwood seem too much like its American inspiration "Angel". Still, if the formula ain't broke, why not use it again and improve? We'll see.

And then there's Grey. Obviously, he pops up, played by a guy who looks strikingly like Hayden Christensen of Star Wars fame. His reunion with Jack has been one of the most anticipated events of the season...and it plays exactly like I sort of thought it would. Grey is, needless to say, pissed that Jack let go of his hand and has never gotten over it. John Barrowman brings his A game to the table this time, trying to balance Jack's conflicting feelings over how he should handle Grey. Clearly, he blames himself for letting Grey go, but he did try to find him and now this happens. How does one deal with something like this? I'll just say that Jack takes a page out of The Doctor's book on this one guys, which for the moment is probably the best approach.

And what of everyone else? Well I can't say much less I reveal too much about who lives and who dies. I'll just close out saying that this episode was a text book nail bitting example of how season finale's are done. You love these characters and you love this story, now it's time to test that commitment and throw the shoe in the gears that brings it all down. Will you still be around when Season 3 starts up in 2009? Can you move on after what happens? Yeah, I'm still a little emotional after watching this episode so, level with me for a moment.

So, what's next? Well Season 3 won't be around for a while, but I'll be here when it does. And be sure to keep an eye out for Jack as he makes another return to The Doctor's side later on in Series 4 of Doctor Who (which starts tomorrow everyone so keep your eyes open for another review).

Torchwood...job well done my friends. I'll have your ultimate review of your sophomore season soon. Until then, I'm more than happy to award this episode, "Exit Wounds"...